Peggy Cass, the gravel-voiced character actress who won a 1957 Tony Award for playing the frumpy Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame, died in Manhattan March 8 at the age of 74. The cause was heart failure. Ms. Cass also earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination when she recreated the role of the repressed, sheltered -- and ultimately liberated -- secretary to Rosalind Russell's hedonistic Mame Dennis in the play's film version.
Ms. Cass was born in Boston in 1924 and made her professional debut in 1945 on an Australian tour with The Doughgirls. She appeared in many revues and Broadway comedies (her debut, Touch and Go, A Thurber Carnival, The Front Page) but it wasn't until she played the odd-duck Agnes Gooch that she achieved star status.
She appeared in numerous regional and stock productions, including Catholic-oriented shows such as Agnes of God and the musical, Nunsense, at the Nederlander-operated Birmingham Theatre in metropolitan Detroit. Nunsense, in which she played the salty mother superior, was a favorite vehicle for her. On Broadway, in 1979-80, she appeared in Once a Catholic.
Those who didn't know her stage or film work, remember her as a celebrity panelist on the 1960s TV program, "To Tell the Truth."
Among Ms Cass' films were "The Marrying Kind," "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" and "If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium."
In September 1998 in New York, Ms. Cass reprised her Agnes Gooch role at a one-night-only staged benefit reading of Auntie Mame. Playwright-actor Charles Busch played Mame to Cass' Gooch.
Ms. Cass is survived by her husband, Eugene Feeney.
-- By Sean McGrath and Kenneth Jones